Page last updated at 23:38 GMT, Tuesday, 21 April 2009 00:38 UK

Empty jail workshops 'shameful'

By Reevel Alderson
BBC Scotland Home Affairs Correspondent

Blueprint
The report said workshops should be put to better use

An official inspection report has criticised Edinburgh Prison because its workshops are regularly lying empty.

The Chief Inspector of Prisons said the workshops were an outstanding resource and it was a "shameful waste" they were not being used.

The Scottish Prison Service has blamed the situation on the increased numbers held in Edinburgh.

A spokesman agreed it was unacceptable, but said the SPS was working hard to improve the position.

The report, which follows the final inspection by Dr Andrew McLellan before he demits office, is largely positive.

Edinburgh Prison, which has a capacity of 872, has been extensively modernised at a cost of £120m. Its oldest accommodation hall is just 11 years old.

Dr McLellan said the facilities were first-class, and expressed the hope the forthcoming months would see the promise offered by the new buildings being fulfilled.

'Mind-numbing'

But he said he was disappointed that workshops were often empty when the inspectors visited.

He said: "These workshops are an outstanding resource to train people for work when they return to society and to allow them to spend their prison sentences doing something useful.

"It is a shameful waste that they should regularly be lying empty."

Dr McLellan points out that prisoners who could be using the workshops were instead locked for long periods in their cells.

Dr Andrew McLellan
Dr Andrew McLellan's report will be the last one in his role as inspector

His report also highlighted difficulties in Edinburgh Prison at weekends and said: "There is very little provision indeed for anything good to happen at weekends.

"The food is less good, there are almost no out-of-cell activities, and most of the so-called recreation facilities available are very tedious."

He concludes: "A weekend in Edinburgh Prison is 'mind-numbing'."

At the time of the inspection, the numbers in the jail were below capacity - 795 prisoners, but late last year it had held as many as 913.

The Scottish Prison Service said the heightened prisoner population meant staff were fully occupied simply managing the numbers and the "churn" of new admissions.

He said: "In these circumstances, something has to give, and often we can't allow staff away to supervise workshops.

"It's not acceptable, but we are working hard to improve the situation."



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